Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu

Here is an interesting post that examines Black Asians and identity by Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, a Japanese/American multicultural psychologist and author.

Are Hapa White Asian Americans?

Some people seem to think hapa means white Asian American, even though it originally refers to Hawaiian mixtures and is not confined to hapa haole. I never had that impression myself, as one of my first hapa friends was Margo Okazawa-Rey and she called herself, Afro Asian or black Japanese. One of my earliest colleagues was Velina Hasu Houston, who more than anyone publicly acknowledged the blackness while asserting her Japanese identity.

But the reality is that black Asians may still feel like they do not fully belong in hapa circles. In her blog, Grits and Sushi (gritsandsushi.com), Mitzi Uehara Carter writes of how she would meet other black Asians at the gatherings of hapa organizations and “we almost always whispered that we weren’t feelin’ the hapaness.” Not that she wasn’t feeling the “commonalities between us all–but the vast majority of the folks were Asian and white American. When I met with the other black Asians in the group, that’s when I felt a real connection emerge.”

It doesn’t surprise me that Black Asians feel marginalized in hapa gatherings. I know that I am as affected as anyone else by representations and discourses of people. I try hard, but I know I am not beyond my own limiting consciousness. I caught myself the other day about to say that George Kitahara Kich wrote the first study on hapa, when I realized that I was revealing my bias that white Japanese are the real hapa. The first study was by Christine Iijima Hall, about black Japanese, and I was marginalizing it, what dominant group members always do to minority members.”

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About the author: Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu is a Japanese/American multicultural psychologist and author specializing in understanding and illuminating issues of diversity and identity in nations, organizations, families, and individuals. He is on the faculties of the Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford Center for Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity, and Fielding Graduate University. His latest books are When Half is Whole: Multiethnic Asian American Identities (Stanford University Press, 2012) and Synergy, Healing, and Empowerment: Insights from Cultural Diversity, with Richard Katz (Brush Education, 2012).” Check out his podcasts here.

BTW, some of you may remember Mitzi, from the Grits and Sushi post: Nappy Routes & Tangled Tales which brought together a motley crew of scholars, former military members, artists and business owners for a discussion to raise various issues about spaces of blackness in Okinawa.